PULLMAN, Wash. – Facing one of the top teams in the country, the Montana soccer team laid it all on the line on Sunday morning before coming up just short, falling to No. 14 Nebraska, 1-0.
"I can't tell you how proud of these girls I am," head coach Mark Plakorus said. "We played very well and went toe to toe with them. Nebraska is a very, very good team, but I think our kids rose to the challenge today."
The Huskers scored the game's only goal in the 39thminute, a 'world-class goal' by Nebraska's Haley Hanson that Plakorus doesn't think any goalie could have stopped.
"It was one heck of a free kick. It took a special shot and a special team to beat us."
Nebraska, which has allowed just two goals in six games all year, held the Griz off the board, but not without good looks. The Huskers doubled Montana's total shots (10-5), but each team had two shots on goal and the Griz arguably got better looks.
Nebraska made two main pushes – at the beginning of each half – but aside from that, UM was able to maintain control and possession of the ball for the majority of the game.
"The chances we created were good," Plakorus said. "You're only going to get a handful of looks against a team of that caliber and we put some dangerous ones up. We just couldn't capitalize."
Senior Chanelle Pederson had both of UM's shots on goal. Also taking shots were Kaitlin Crowell, Hallie Widner and McKenzie Warren. Widner's first-half shot was one Plakorus felt just got away from the junior. Warren's look in the 69th minute sailed just above the top of the net.
In goal, Claire Howard faced 10 shots, recording a save and one goal allowed against one of the best offensive teams in the country. Entering this weekend, Nebraska ranked 15th in the NCAA with 3.0 goals scored per game.
"We went into this game with a specific game plan and how to counter," Plakorus said. "I think our whole team played extremely well defensively. Nebraska didn't get a lot of balls in behind us, which is what they thrive on, and it's because of the players both in front of our line and the back line defending the box."
Throughout the entire day, the Griz held its composure, competitiveness and stuck to their game plan. Despite the defeat, the team walked away with added growth and confidence.
"We weren't satisfied, which is what I liked," Plakorus said. "They felt as if they could have won. They're still hungry and think they can do more. We want to put our players in tough situations to see how they can react, and today was a great learning experience for us. We have to build off of this and keep rising, which I know we can do."
The Griz finish the weekend in Pullman with a 1-1 mark, defeating Georgia Southern on Friday evening. Montana will be back in action next weekend, traveling to Iowa (Friday) and Northern Iowa (Sunday).